W. Eugene Smith Reference CD collection, 1946-1971
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- Monk, Thelonious, Smith, W. Eugene, 1918-1978., Young, David X., 1930-2001, and Overton, Hall
- The W. Eugene Smith Reference Reference CD Collection includes 5,087 compact discs containing audio originally recorded to quarter-inch open reel tape by photographer W. Eugene Smith. Smith recorded the bulk of the 1,740 reels represented in this collection between 1957 and 1971, while living in the "Jazz Loft" at 821 Sixth Avenue in New York City. The original tapes are housed in the W. Eugene Smith Collection at the University of Arizona's Center for Creative Photography.
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- Materials in English
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The W. Eugene Smith Reference Reference CD Collection consists of 5,087 compact discs containing audio originally recorded to quarter-inch open reel tape by photographer W. Eugene Smith. Smith recorded the bulk of the 1,740 reels represented in this collection between 1957 and 1971, while living in the "Jazz Loft" at 821 Sixth Avenue in New York City. The tapes are housed in the W. Eugene Smith Collection at the University of Arizona's Center for Creative Photography, which, in partnership with the Center for Documentary Studies and other funders, facilitated the transfer to compact disc as part of writer Sam Stephenson's research on the Jazz Loft and the life of Smith.
Stephenson and the staff of CDS began a years-long process of discovering the content of the recordings, a process documented in Stephenson's book, The Jazz Loft Project, and on the Project website, http://www.jazzloftproject.org/. They found that Smith's microphones had captured jazz jams, conversations, ambient sounds, radio and television programs, and all variety of life in the Loft, creating an aural portrait that uniquely and exhaustively documents from within one of New York's creative crucibles of the 1950s and 1960s.
The recordings in this finding aid are organized by reel number and accompanied by a set of notes created by CDS, which is included here verbatim for each reel. The researcher should note that spelling, grammatical, typographical, and content errors have been left intact. Because Smith often recorded his tapes at a low speed, which enabled him to fit more content on the tape, many of the tapes have more than one compact disc associated with them.
- Biographical / historical:
W. Eugene Smith was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1918. He studied photography at Notre Dame University in Wichita, and the New York Institute of Photography. During World War II Smith went to work for Life Magazine, and while following the Marines in the Pacific theater he was seriously wounded. He went back to work for Life in 1947, and until 1955 created a series of photographic essays that cemented his reputation as an artist and a documentarian, during an era when Life had an enormous impact on American consciousness. Smith's fame was rivaled by his perfectionism and combative relationship with editors, and he left Life in 1955, embarking on an ambitious project to photograph Pittsburgh for its bicentennial. As his Pittsburgh project ballooned in scale, Smith left his family in Croton-on-Hudson and moved into a loft space at 821 Sixth Avenue in New York. From 1957 to 1971 he lived and worked out of the loft, taking tens of thousands of photographs and creating thousands of recordings, while also becoming increasingly dependent on alcohol and drugs. In 1971 he was evicted from the loft, and went to Japan, newly remarried, to document the effects of corporate pollution in Minamata. Returning to America exhausted, ill, and broke, he was persuaded by colleagues Ansel Adams, John Morris, and Jim Hughes to move his collection to the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, where he would also have a teaching position. However, in 1978, less than a year afer arriving in Arizona, Smith died of a stroke.
- Processing information:
Processed by: Andrew Cannon and Craig Breaden, 2013.
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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[Identification of item], W. Eugene Smith Reference CD Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.